Addiction can happen at any age, but it usually starts when a person is young. When begun in the teen years, it often continues on into college, despite the harmful consequences. Dependence and addiction does that to people.
Most opiates are legitimately prescribed drugs to help relieve pain. They are intended to be a short-term means of coping with temporary, severe discomfort. How the brain interprets pain signals from the body is altered when opiates are introduced. These powerful narcotics make the user feel relaxed and drowsy. However, over time, higher or more frequent dosages of opiates are necessary in order to attain the desired effect. This tolerance to opiates can lead to dependence, addiction…even death by overdose.
The availability and popularity of opiates has dramatically increased in recent years since opiates are a typical prescription for severe or chronic pain by most of our nation’s physicians. As such, adolescents and college students have found various opiate drugs to be an easy – albeit dangerous – way to experiment with drug use. These powerful narcotics are now commonly a part of the college party scene.
College Stress and Opiate Abuse
As college students experience stress to succeed academically, pressure to fit in socially and manage a more independent lifestyle apart from parents, the use of mind-altering chemicals has become an accepted method of dealing with life in many college social circles.
Stress can lead to self-medication or a belief in a need to “party” to release stress. Because of opiates accessibility, the opportunity to abuse these powerful narcotics can easily be found. It is vital that college students realize the very real danger posed by opiates and other opioids. Use of these powerful drugs can lead to addiction and even death.
Be Aware of the Warning Signs of Addiction and Take Action
If an adolescent or college student starts behaving differently for no apparent reason – such as acting withdrawn, frequently tired or depressed, or hostile—it could be a sign he or she is developing a drug-related problem. Parents and others may overlook such signs, believing them to be a normal part of puberty.
Other signs include:
- A change in peer group.
- Carelessness in grooming.
- Decline in academic performance.
- Missing classes or skipping school.
- Loss of interest in favorite activities.
- Trouble in school or with the law.
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits.
- Deteriorating relationships with family members and friends.
Through scientific advances, we know more than ever before about how drugs work in the brain. We also know that addiction can be successfully treated to help young people stop abusing drugs and lead productive lives. Intervening early when you first spot signs of drug use in your teen is critical; don’t wait for your teen to become addicted before you seek help. However, if a teen is addicted, treatment is the next step.1
Why Do Students Have Trouble Getting Clean on Their Own?
Repeated drug use changes the brain. Brain imaging studies of people with drug addictions show changes in areas of the brain that are critical to judgment, decision-making, learning and memory, and behavior control. Quitting addictive drugs can be extremely difficult, even for those who feel ready. That’s why professional, experienced guidance and support are usually necessary in order to achieve long-term recovery from opiate abuse, dependence and addiction.1
If Help Is Needed for an Opiate Addiction, Where Do I Start?
Asking for help is the first important step – help from highly qualified and experienced professionals.
Going to a doctor who can screen for signs of drug use and other related health conditions can be a good place to start. Not every general physician is comfortable drug screening, so you might want to ask about that in advance of an actual visit. If signs of addiction are determined, the next step would be for the doctor to refer the patient to addiction treatment specialists. Individuals may also contact an addiction specialist directly. There are 3,500 board-certified physicians who specialize in addiction in the U.S.1
In most cases, addiction treatment services start with some sort of assessment or evaluation to determine the severity of the problem, followed by recommendations regarding how to proceed.
If a college student has concerns about one of her friends, she can notify a college counselor or health care professional…even the student’s parents. If drug addiction does exist, parents should then step in and take their child out of school. By placing them in a drug rehab center, getting them into a 12-step program and having them receive counselling, they will be on their way to a better life.2
It takes a lot of courage to seek help for yourself, your child or your friend when a possible drug problem is indicated. If opiate abuse is determined, a considerable amount of hard work lies ahead. It will likely interrupt any scheduled academic, personal and possibly even athletic activities and events. However, evidence-based treatment enables young people to counteract addiction’s powerful disruptive effects on their brain and behavior.
College students (or anyone, for that matter) with a substance use disorder can go on to have normal, productive lives – lives in which their dreams for the future are fulfilled. While detox, rehab and recovery can be expected to take time and effort – with some degree of pain and anxiety thrown in – the results are definitely worth the effort. Returning to your “authentic self” is key to a great life.1
It’s Better to Err on the Side of Caution
College students are just beginning a life of independence and adventure. It would certainly be a shame to throw it all away due to opiate addiction. Addictive drugs can have a life-long impact, if used recklessly. Ensure that health and happiness can be expected in the future. Be knowledgeable, aware and take precautions to keep opiates and other highly addictive drugs out of the picture.
If you are in college or have a loved one in college, you may be concerned about possible opiate abuse. Our advice: it’s never too late or too early to seek evaluation or help. When you call our 24/7 toll-free line, a friendly and knowledgeable coordinator will address all of your questions and concerns, provide encouragement, and offer some positive, proven solutions for you to consider. Please error on the side of safety and don’t hesitate to call us. With an excellent record of success and many independent studies verifying our effective approach, you can trust us. We care…one person at a time.
1 “What to Do If Your Teen or Young Adult Has a Problem with Drugs”, National Institute on Drug Abuse, https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment/what-to-do-if-your-teen-or-young-adult-has-problem-drugs , (January 2016).
2 “Guidebook to Addiction on College Campuses”, Learn Psychology, http://www.learnpsychology.org/college-campus-addiction-resources/ , (2016).